Wednesday, April 23, 2014

5 Questions We {sometimes} Wish You'd Ask

Infertility is intensely private. (Well, maybe not this week…) Essentially, we’re talking about something that 7 in 8 couples get to experience in the privacy of their marriage. A pregnancy bumps alludes to the intimate act, but no one is asking for details or how many tries it took or whether you needed to have your feet up in stirrups for any part of that conception.

Those of us facing infertility tend to isolate ourselves. We know that there are no guarantees, and we’re not sure how many times we can share publically that another cycle bit the dust. Other times, we just want a cycle to ourselves so that when (if?) it fails, we can sob bitterly and avoid the loving encouragement you want to soothe us with. (We know. We’re kind of impossible to be around. Please love us anyway.)

Sometimes, though? We long for specific words from you.

1. How can I pray? Sometimes, the question is enough to slow our hearts and remind us to pause. To engage in conversation and be vulnerable. Please understand that this vulnerability is a challenge for us: we fear that if we begin to weep we may not stop. In many ways, hearing ‘I’m praying for you’ is a balm and encouragement. To be honest, however, some days we steel our hearts to it. The words can echo bleakly in our minds on those days when all the prayers in the world seem to be unanswered.

Engage us. Encourage us to be specific. Assure us that we’re not too needy, too desperate. Remind us God is the God of details, and cares intimately for us.

2. Can I pray with you? In our eleven years of infertility I have been asked this twice. Both times were overwhelming, humbling and beautiful. Those moments that are carved into my heart as the truest expressions of compassion and love a person can offer another person. I realize this isn’t for everyone. Not everyone feels comfortable praying aloud. But if you do, and if the Lord leads you to bend a knee beside a hurting brother or sister in Christ, please know that moment will not be forgotten.

Kneel with us. Draw us to the throne of grace with you. Remind us who captures each of our tears in His bottle.

3. I noticed your [sister/sister-in-law/cousin/best friend, etc.] announced a pregnancy. How are you… really? First off, the fact that you realized a pregnancy announcement or birth of a baby is a source of pain for us is huge. Then, you asked, acknowledging that we might be masking that pain and putting on a brave face. Asking us this question will either leave us silent and speechless (in a good way) or make us cry. Or both. Please be prepared for the Ugly Cry on this one because it probably means we’ve been fighting our grief for days.

Be a soft place to land. Hold us. Sit in silence with us as we grieve. Remind us that we are loved by a God who quiets us with His love, who sings His grace over us in our times of deepest sorrow.

4. You’re invited… you know I understand if you can’t make it, right? Oh, this. This release from obligation and the underlying compassion within it. We love you, we hear you saying, but we know it might be hard, too hard. Take the time you need to make space for yourself. The first Mother’s Day my mother-in-law offered this to me, my gratitude for her gentleness convinced me to join the family gathering. We shared a quick, meaningful embrace when The Len and I arrived, and the visit was pleasant and encouraging.

Include us. Gently. Assure us we’re always welcome, even if that means we need to be absent for a time. Remind us that in our time of needing space, we are well hidden with Christ, safe beneath His wings.

5. You are beautiful. You are whole. You have purpose. Alright, technically that’s not a question. The statement contains a question, however: Do you know it? Do you believe it? Are you losing sight of it? We do lose sight of it. Our bodies fail us monthly. We crumple every cycle. We stare at ourselves in the mirror and all we see is brokenness. A pointless, useless body. We lose sight of it so quickly that we need to fight to gain it back; we need to claw back from the empty bleakness of this grief to find a way to believe that we mean something… anything. To those who love us. To our God. That our inability to do this one thing that for every other woman seems so simple will not one day make us simply vanish.

Fight with us. In the persistent, saturating grief be the relentless voice of struggle. Remind us whenever you can, even when we protest and roll our eyes, that we are His creation, His masterpiece. We are His.

We need you more than you know, more than we dare let on most days. There is a weariness and hopelessness that sets in some days, and we lack the strength and daring to reach out. We’re sorry for it. We know this time is difficult on you, too. We know that you are watching, helpless and frustrated, and we don’t know how to bridge the chasm that yawns dangerously between us.

We need you. These five simple questions? They’re bridge builders. Chasm shrinkers. And, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, life savers.


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This post is part of National Infertility Awareness Week. Please go to resolve.org to learn more and become a part of the movement.

 Did you download your NIAW2014 Facebook cover photo yet? Hop on over here to grab yours!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5 Simple Ways to Reach Out This Week (Or Any Week, Really)

It's National Infertility Awareness Week. Mother's Day is right around the corner. How about a fun primer on simple ways to reach out and encourage someone you know who is facing infertility?

1. Pray for them. This is the simplest thing, and while they may not realize you're doing so, it's important. Perhaps this week, pray for specifics:
  • for the health of their marriage
  • for her ability to focus at work if she's going through treatments
  • for them to know that they are not forgotten
  • for them to know a special joy and gratitude this week
2. Drop them a note or card in the mail. Snail mail is a special treat, especially when it's filled with encouraging verses. If you have some colourful Post-its or index cards, write out some texts of comfort and encouragement to include with the card.

Some of my favourite texts of encouragement during the bleakest days of infertility:
  • Psalm 73:26 - "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
  • Psalm 62:1&2 - "Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."
  • Psalm 20:1&2 - "May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion."
3. Offer to go for coffee or a stroll through the mall - without your kiddos. Allow me to clarify this one. We love your kids. Most days, however, we are completely jealous.. We don't like to use the word jealous, but there it is. And while some days, we'll do just fine around your kidlets and enjoy ourselves, the offer (from you) to leave them home will mean the world to us. It means a:) we don't have to share you and b:) we don't have to put in extra work being okay. We can just be with you and chat about whatever. And that's a big deal to us. I promise.

4. With Mother's Day coming up, take an extra moment to remember that there are women in your church who have lost babies. I'm sure you think of your babies on Mother's Day. They are also thinking of theirs. The ones they never held this side of grace. The ones that slipped away to Jesus' arms before they had a chance to meet them. This Mother's Day, if you know someone in your church who has lost a child, slip a card in their hand or mailbox. Assure them that they (and their precious babies) are not forgotten, and that you're praying for an extra measure of peace for them.

5. Deliver a home-cooked meal. If you know someone is in the midst of treatments at the cycle, drop off a meal. I know we typically reserve these for babies just born or people who are ailing, but a warm meal is a sign of hospitality and encouragement for anyone going through a challenging time. It will be truly appreciated.

Can you think of more? Please share them in the comment box below!

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This post is part of National Infertility Awareness Week. Please go to resolve.org to learn more and become a part of the movement.

 Did you download your NIAW2014 Facebook cover photo yet? Hop on over here to grab yours!

Monday, April 21, 2014

5 Questions We Never Dreamed We'd Ask

We sit in clinic waiting rooms or at dining room tables poring over countless questions that make up an adoption home study, and we ask ourselves the quiet list of questions that has become part of our everyday existence. Questions that, had the beast of infertility never reared its hideous head in our life, we wouldn't dream of asking...

1. Am I not meant to have kids?
We get told this, you see. By well-meaning busybodies who think they've got a better grasp of God's plan for our life than God does: 'Clearly you weren't meant to have kids.' We are told that these words weren't meant to hurt us... this was never their intent. But whether you intended to hurt us or not, those words sliced deep and long, and we were left fumbling with whether it was true.

And so we ask it ourselves... of friends, of spouses, of family, of God. The answers we receive are all wrought of a helpless lack of knowledge. Our tears slip past our lashes and we know that the silence on the other end of the line means one thing: there is no easy answer. There is, perhaps, no answer at all.

2. Does God know I'll be a terrible mother?
We know ourselves. We know our foibles and imperfections. At some point we wonder whether one of these is the unforgivable... the one trait in humanity that must end with us. The one weakness we must never thrust upon the vulnerable and malleable minds and hearts of children. We wonder if somehow, somewhere down the line, we took a test we didn't realize we'd flunked: that we would fail at motherhood and thus did not deserve a chance.

And yet, in our hearts, we cannot reconcile this. We try. We harbour it as a secret fear, while quietly assuring ourselves that surely we have some quality that would redeem our weaknesses in motherhood. But we are hard pressed to believe, and for fear of someone confirming this anxiety, we tuck this question in our hearts and beg it never to surface.

3. I can't take much more. How do I know it will be worth it?
Our arms are bruised and swollen from countless blood draws. We've been at the clinic more times this week than we care to admit. We've started each of those days with a confirmation that our bodies can't do this thing called baby-making... not even with help. We pop pills and take shots; we wait, naked beneath a sheet, for yet another ultrasound tech to confirm that we aren't ovulating, are ovulating too much. "We'll try again next cycle," we're told, as we're left alone in the room to clean up and get dressed.

And while all we want is a baby in our arms at the end of the day, the truth is we question the cost. Through exhaustion and disappointment and severe hormonal changes we challenge whether it isn't easier to quit. To just stop. To lay down the head and weep until it doesn't hurt anymore, and then just get up and carry on. The hurt doesn't end, though. Friends who have walked this journey to the other side assure us that it's all worth it. Worth it and more. And so we slog on, limping and weary and doubting.

4. Should he have married someone else?
Oh, the broken failure inherent in this question. We are raised to be mothers, even now, even today. Most of the time, we marry with the hope of having children. But within that it is the giving of children that means so very much. To give a son or a daughter to our spouse. And here we are: hollow, empty, broken. Everywhere we go we see women pushing strollers and pregnant women and we know how we are failing. We know.

Had he married someone else... perhaps he could have two children by now. We walk through the math of years and cycles and wonder what games this man of ours would play with a two or three year old. A five year old. And we know he isn't playing those games because of us. The 'if onlys' are endless then, and crushing.

5. Who am I as a woman if I am never a mother?
Ahhh, this. Perhaps the bravest of questions, this one. We sit in church pews and watch families find their seats. We silently count the number of wee heads that follow their mama and wonder what possible good we are in the world if we aren't mothers. What use we are in the church... What possible contribution we can make.... what place we'll have or role we'll fill. Whether we will always always be second best: a less-than woman; a less-than Christ follower...

The identity crisis can be severe; it can last years and sometimes leave us bone-weary and hopeless. And all the while, we silently count wee heads following mamas... wondering and wondering.

Why do I share these questions with you? As a window into the heart of a woman facing infertility. This road we walk is so much more than just desiring a child: it challenges and breaks us, leaves us shattered and uncertain, and these questions (each one of them straight from the pit of hell) undermine our ability to see past the pain and sorrow of infertility.

You don't need to dig up the right answers. We know you feel helpless. Powerless to make change for us, to ease our sorrow. And truly, it's not what we long for from you. We hunger for your compassion. Your love. Your ability to stand for us when we need to crumple into a sobbing mess. Stand with us. Speak Truth to us. Even when we don't want to hear it: Speak. Truth. To. Us. For we are bombarded on every side by lies that we are not enough, that we are broken, useless, damaged, hollow.

And just know. Know that these are some of the questions we battle with. Accept that these questions are part of the journey, and they will change us. With your prayers, your love and your compassion, they will change us for the better.

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This post is part of National Infertility Awareness Week. Please go to resolve.org to learn more, and to become a part of the movement.

Did you download your NIAW2014 Facebook cover photo yet? Hop on over here to grab yours!